Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Mr. Ancram: There is obviously some concern. The Minister is not known for being particularly flexible on occasions such as this, but on this occasion, will he take the proposal away and look at it?

Mr. McLeish: Some interesting comments have been made, but we are not inclined to accept amendment No. 34.

Mr. Salmond: The Minister is being rather inflexible. Several points have been made in the debate, and the Bill still has a few stages to go. Without giving a commitment, perhaps he and his officials will examine the matter. It does seem that there is rather a surfeit of titles for the Duke of Cornwall, and perhaps a slimming down or the addition of "Rothesay" will satisfy the concerned hon. Members. Perhaps the Minister will re-examine particularly the point made by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie).

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring): I fully appreciate the position that the Minister now finds himself in--he probably does not have a contingency note for the constitutional crisis now engulfing him. However, I believe that it is unnecessarily brittle to reject out of hand the comments of the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie). To make matters easy for him--and if the hon. Lady does not press her amendment--the official Opposition will attempt to reintroduce it in the other place, to give the Government time to think about it. Amendment agreed to. Amendments made: No. 220, in page 57, line 18, at end insert


'and
(b) a sub judice rule.'.

No. 221, in page 57, in line 20, at end insert


'and for withdrawing his rights and privileges as a member for the period of his exclusion'.--[Mr. McLeish.]

7 pm

Mrs. Ewing: I beg to move amendment No. 74, in page 57, line 40, at end insert--


'(4) The standing orders shall include provision to allow members of the European Parliament to sit on any committee or sub-committee charged with the scrutiny of European Commission documents or European legislation.'.

29 Jan 1998 : Column 560

The amendment is simple. I tell hon. Members who are interested in the European issue that there will be opportunities later in the Bill's passage to examine the complexities of the relationship between European institutions and the proposed Scottish Parliament, and that perhaps they should not try to fire all their ammunition now.

In moving the amendment, I am trying to discover what Ministers believe should be the link between Members of the European Parliament and Members of the Scottish Parliament. I am not saying in the amendment that MEPs should sit on Committees and have automatic voting rights, merely that they should be enabled to be in the Scottish Parliament and to assist any Committee that will be established to scrutinise European legislation. If the principle of involvement were conceded, I am sure that the Scottish Parliament could itself examine how such Committees might evolve.

I have studied other Parliaments and how their Members link in with Members of the European Parliament. I am specifically dealing with scrutiny committees--not policy committees--examining proposals from the Commission.

In Belgium, for example, the scrutiny committee consists of 10 MEPs and 10 MPs. In Denmark, MEPs can attend the scrutiny committee if they have a dual mandate. In Germany, in the Bundestag, 50 MPs are involved in scrutiny, 39 of whom are directly elected to the Bundestag and 11 of whom are MEPs. There is provision in the Bundesrat, composed of members from the various Lander, to allow MEPs to sit on scrutiny committees. In Greece, 31 members scrutinise European legislation, including 10 MEPs. Spain has provided for joint meetings.

In France, MEPs are invited to give evidence on technical measures. In Ireland and Italy, there is provision for MEPs attend such meetings. In Luxembourg, MEPs attend in an advisory capacity. There are regular meetings with MEPs in the Netherlands. Austria has no formal arrangements. Finland's MEPs are heard as experts. Portugal provides for regular meetings. In the United Kingdom, there are no formal arrangements and no direct links.

I accept that scrutiny committees work in different ways in different countries. As we establish the Scottish Parliament, we should consider how important Europe is to the electorate of Scotland, because many issues are now dealt with in European legislation.

With other hon. Members, I serve on the Select Committee on European Legislation. In one year, our Committee scrutinised 1,356 documents. Of those, 50 were recommended for debate--12 on the Floor of the House, and 38 in Standing Committees. That substantial amount of legislation--the gamut of European legislation--has an impact on the Scottish economy, on Scottish society and on the Scottish environment.

I should like us to consider the possibility of the Scottish Parliament immediately opening its doors to the expertise and knowledge of those who work within the European Parliament, enabling us to examine the impact of European proposals on our country of Scotland. That would be logical.

For a long time, MEPs have not had freedom of access or easy access in the House to telephones, for example, or to fax machines or to Brussels. It was a long and

29 Jan 1998 : Column 561

hard-fought campaign. Hon. Members are now eligible for one trip per year on Commission business to either Brussels or Strasbourg. There is an opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to say, "Let's examine how other Parliaments in the European Union operate, and consider some of their ideas."

The amendment will not tie us into granting any rigorous rights or means of domination. It will merely open doors to ensure that those who are elected--only a month after the Scottish Parliament elections--by our electorate in Scotland are given the right to come to our Parliament and to be involved in discussions affecting us. That is the amendment's underpinning ethos.

The European Parliament is the most democratic of all European institutions. MEPs are not appointed or delegated--they are elected by the people. In a newly elected Scottish Parliament, we should involve those who are directly elected. The expertise that MEPs could bring to our scrutiny would be to the benefit of us all.

Mr. Dalyell: Having been a member of the Scrutiny Committee under the chairmanship of that clever man Julius Silverman, I find myself extremely sympathetic to the aims of the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing). Incidentally, gently and without malice, I think that she may have scored a little bit of parliamentary history or a parliamentary first. I doubt whether--in the whole history of this Parliament's 700 years or whatever it is--anyone has ever before proposed a "co-opt my mother-in-law" amendment. I do not know whether we should call it the "co-opt Winnie Ewing" amendment.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Donald Dewar): My hon. Friend is supposed to be supporting the amendment.

Mr. Dalyell: I do not want to do it any harm, because I certainly do support it, having been a Member of the indirectly elected Parliament and also a member of the Scrutiny Committee. My only trouble is that, if we co-opt Members of the European Parliament, where will it end? Should Members of the European Parliament be co-opted to the Council, or vice versa? However, using Members of the European Parliament for European legislation is a special case. Speaking for myself, I should like to think that, if there is to be an assembly at Holyrood, David Martin, the distinguished MEP for Lothians, will be able to play a part in it. I support the amendment.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex): I share the hon. Lady's warmth of feeling about the potential that Members of the European Parliament can offer the process of scrutiny. I, too, have sat on Scrutiny Committees. We are told that we have one of the best systems of pre-scrutiny of draft European legislation. To use a phrase in a foreign language, "Cela laisse un peu a desirer."

There is scant evidence that our deliberations have much influence on the process of drafting and negotiating European legislation. However, such proposals must be welcome if they create a community of ideas between different levels of government within the European Community.

29 Jan 1998 : Column 562

We do not support the amendment, however, as we believe that it should be a matter for the Scottish Parliament. Just as we decide whether to bring Members of the European Parliament into our proceedings, that should be for the Scottish Parliament to decide, and not something that we should impose on it.

Mrs. McKenna: I sympathise with what the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) said, but her proposal is too prescriptive. The Standing Orders provide a framework within which the Scottish Parliament can operate, but many issues have been unexplored or misunderstood, as the Scottish Parliament will be in a much stronger position within the European Union than the Scottish National party has suggested.

For example, the Scottish Parliament will be able to appoint a Member to the Committee of the Regions. The Committee of the Regions comprises members of any parliamentary or Government organisation below the level of national Government. Clearly, the Scottish Parliament will fall into that category. As a result, when the Scottish Parliament is involved in pre-legislative consultation, it will be in a strong position. It will be able to make representations and to scrutinise European legislation as it is being prepared.

The amendment is far too prescriptive, as it leaves a host of possibilities in the relationship between the Scottish Parliament and Europe unexplored. The Parliament should have wider powers than the amendment would provide. I hope that it will be a listening and involved Parliament, that it will operate quite differently from this place, and that its Members will be invited to attend Committees and participate in decision making. I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn, because it should be a decision for the Scottish Parliament--once all the avenues have been explored, it should decide how it will operate.


Next Section

IndexHome Page